It’s a year since I last went to Upton, the much written about urban extension to Northampton. I called by again today to see how it’s developed. It was like a ghost town. Work on the new sections of the development has almost come to a standstill, and much of the finished housing lies empty. It must be very sad for the people working there, and not great for those who’ve already made their homes there in the hope that it would be nearly finished by now. The credit crunch has more or less left it high and dry.
There is some very strange housing there and a lot of it is very ugly. None more so than an extraordinary development at the south western corner of the estate by David Wilson Homes, now part of Barratt. Just take a gawp at this showhouse: it really is an eyeful, and not in a good way. The reason I took this picture was to highlight the fact that the cedar shingles they have used for the cladding already look completely different on the west face than on the south face. But the camera I am using isn't quite up to the job of picking out the discolouration. However, it’s done an excellent job at highlighting just how bizarre it looks. Like almost everything else in Upton, it's been stretched upwards to get a third storey. Whilst this may make good use of the footprint, it just looks all out of proportion for a detached family house, which is what this is meant to be. And the windowless south face makes it look like a warehouse. Covered in shingles. My prediction is that the cedar shingles will have to be replaced within five years because they will look awful by then. There are places where they can look great, but this is not one of them.
Around the corner, Dunster’s Zed homes are now nearly finished and were taking a last lick of paint. Despite it being fairly windy, the roof mounted wind turbines were barely spinning at all and the Dalek-like wind cowls seemed to be revolving in a near random fashion, though my photos shows the seven of them broadly aligned towards the breeze. All this roof-top wizardry gives the terrace a faintly toy-town feel which at least brings on a smile, and the proportions actually look very good, at least compared to many of the other developments.
It really is a very weird place, Upton. If you want to see what an eco-town might look like, then take a visit. In fact take a visit even if you don’t want to see what an eco-town might look like. There’s something more than a little disturbing about the whole place and I can’t quite put my finger on it.